Alyssa Cole is an author well-liked by other authors I like. Her Off the Grid trilogy is especially popular, but the post-apocalyptic setting isn’t my favorite. I did like her historical short story Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight so when An Extraordinary Union came up for pre-order, I didn’t hesitate. I paid a full sawbuck for this e-book, y’all. That’s how much faith I had that I was going to like it.
An Extraordinary Union did not disappoint.
The short version: Ellen Burns uses her eidetic memory to serve the Union cause. Her latest mission, posing as a domestic slave in a Confederate household, puts her in the path of fellow Union operative Malcolm McCall, currently undercover as a Confederate soldier.
Once more for emphasis: this is an interracial romance between a slave and a “Confederate soldier” set in the American South during the Civil War. If you’re already making a list of just how sideways this book could go, you would not be amiss.
Cole doesn’t know what you’re talking about. She delivers a thoughtful, sensitive story that respects both the hero and heroine.
Ellen is smart, assertive, and, best of all, communicative. While there is the usual romance push/pull dynamic, the couple talks with one another. She openly addresses the obstacles that lay ahead in a relationship with Malcolm. Ten points for Gryffindor for that alone. For his part, Malcolm doesn’t dismiss her concerns out of hand. He listens and learns. (In fact, while clearly a gifted operative, Malcolm is not an alpha male. He is the emotional, nurturing half of the couple with Ellen the more fiery partner.)
If there’s a complaint, it’s that the plot happening around Ellen and Malcolm doesn’t hold a lot of surprises: there’s the lecherous slaveowner, the malicious rival for the hero’s affections, and an adventure with slavers. The story is really the relationship between the Ellen and Malcolm.
I’ve been making more of an effort to read romances with POC main characters, and this was easily one of the best in that category. The title indicates it’s the first in a series. I look forward to seeing where Cole takes it.